Officials: US closing embassy in Yemen amid continued unrest

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Violence in Yemen - last updated 2/10/2015 - w/vid at top
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Officials: US closing embassy in Yemen amid continued unrest
Yemeni employees of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa said on Tuesday the ambassador had informed staff the mission is closing down, amid deepening turmoil since the resignation of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government last month. They said the ambassador informed them that Washington may ask the Turkish or Algerian embassies in Sanaa to look after U.S. interests in the country while the embassy was closed.
Yahya al-Houthi, center, brother of Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, attends a meeting at parliament in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels are meeting with political rivals for the first time since cementing their power grab last week by dissolving parliament and making their top security body the de facto government. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite Yemenis wearing army uniforms, stand guard outside parliament, during a meeting in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels are meeting with political rivals for the first time since cementing their power grab last week by dissolving parliament and making their top security body the de facto government. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yahya al-Houthi, center, brother of Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi attends a meeting at parliament in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels are meeting with political rivals for the first time since cementing their power grab last week by dissolving parliament and making their top security body the de facto government. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
SANA'A, YEMEN - JANUARY 27: Security forces stand guard outside the U.S. embassy which is closed until further notice due to the security reasons in Sana'a, Yemen on January 27, 2015. U.S. officials warn its citizens to leave the country. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan, 21. 2014, file photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi speaks during the closing session of the national dialogue conference in Sanaa, Yemen. Hadi submited his resignation Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, over a standoff with Shiite rebels who control the capital. (AP Photo/Yemen's Defense Ministry, File)
Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniforms stand atop an armored vehicle, which was seized from the army during recent clashes, outside the house of Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite Yemeni stand guard outside the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
People and Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniforms stand near an armored vehicle, which was seized from the army during recent clashes, outside the house of Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite Yemeni stand guard outside the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniform sits atop an armored vehicle, which was seized from the army during recent clashes, outside the house of Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite Yemeni stand guard outside the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniforms stand on alert during recent clashes, outside the house of Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 file photo, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of Yemen, sits after addressing the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Two of the Yemeni embattled president’s advisers said that the president is held “captive” in hands of Houthis and warned if submitted resignation in protest to Houthis’ power grab, to face prosecution. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
Graphic with map provides an update on events in Yemen; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniforms stand guard on a street leading to the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. Authorities in southern Yemen have closed the country's second-largest airport there in protest over the Shiite rebels' power grab in the capital, Sanaa, which has plunged the nation deeper into chaos and threatens to fracture the country. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni honor guards carry coffins of the victims of recent attacks by al-Qaeda militants during a funeral procession on November 26, 2014 in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have in recent months stepped up attacks against Yemeni troops in the volatile south of the country. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemeni honor guards carry coffins of the victims of recent attacks by al-Qaeda militants during a funeral procession on November 26, 2014 in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have in recent months stepped up attacks against Yemeni troops in the volatile south of the country. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemeni security forces hold a position as they guard outside a court during a hearing for Al-Qaeda suspects accused of undermining state security at their trial in Sanaa on November 25, 2014. A US soldier was freed by Yemeni forces just hours after being captured in an Al-Qaeda attack on an air base in the violence-wracked country, military officials said. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Students chant slogans to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally at the University of Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni protesters hold banners with Arabic writing that reads, "No to militia, No to terrorism, No to violence," to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Smokes rises from an area due to clashes between Sunni militiamen and Hawthi Shiite rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Yemen's top security body imposed an overnight curfew in restive areas of the capital, Sanaa, on Saturday after Shiite rebels took over the state television building amid heavy clashes and the U.N. envoy to the country signaled that a deal had been reached to end the violence. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Smokes rises from near the Yemeni Government TV building, background, during clashes between Sunni militiamen and Hawthi Shiite rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Hawthi fighters and militias and army units allied with the Muslim Brotherhood's Islah party battled in Sanaa for a third day Saturday in clashes that have shaken the Yemeni capital, killed over 120 people, and led to thousands fleeing their homes. The violence raises fears that this chronically unstable country could be dragged into the sort of sectarian conflicts that have plagued other nations in the region. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Hawthi Shiite rebel stands guard at a checkpoint on a street leading to the state television building in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Yemen's top security body imposed an overnight curfew in restive areas of the capital, Sanaa, on Saturday after Shiite rebels took over the state television building amid heavy clashes and the U.N. envoy to the country signaled that a deal had been reached to end the violence. Arabic on a banner reads,"God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam." (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Hawthi Shiite rebels stand guard at a checkpoint on a street leading to the state television building in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Yemen's top security body imposed an overnight curfew in restive areas of the capital, Sanaa, on Saturday after Shiite rebels took over the state television building amid heavy clashes and the U.N. envoy to the country signaled that a deal had been reached to end the violence. Arabic on a banner reads,"God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam." (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Hawthi Shiite rebel holds his rifle while guarding a checkpoint on a street leading to the state television building in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Yemen's top security body imposed an overnight curfew in restive areas of the capital, Sanaa, on Saturday after Shiite rebels took over the state television building amid heavy clashes and the U.N. envoy to the country signaled that a deal had been reached to end the violence. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Smokes rises from near the Yemeni Government TV building, background, during clashes between Sunni militiamen and Hawthi Shiite rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Hawthi fighters and militias and army units allied with the Muslim Brotherhood's Islah party battled in Sanaa for a third day Saturday in clashes that have shaken the Yemeni capital, killed over 120 people, and led to thousands fleeing their homes. The violence raises fears that this chronically unstable country could be dragged into the sort of sectarian conflicts that have plagued other nations in the region. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Hawthi Shiite protesters hold pieces of tear gas canisters that were shot, they say, by riot police during clashes in front of the Foreign Ministry at a main road leading to the airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. Yemeni security forces briefly broke up a sit-in by Shiite rebels blocking the capital's airport road Sunday, only to have protesters return and keep the main highway closed after the first violence of a weekslong anti-government protest. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Hawthi Shiite protesters surround an armored vehicle, trying to take it over during clashes in front of the Foreign Ministry at a main road leading to the airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. Arabic writing on the banner at left reads, "Allah is the greatest. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam." Yemeni security forces briefly broke up a sit-in by Shiite rebels blocking the capital's airport road Sunday, only to have protesters return and keep the main highway closed after the first violence of a weekslong anti-government protest. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni riot police use water canons to disperse Hawthi Shiite protesters during clashes near the Foreign Ministry at a main road leading to the airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014. Yemeni security forces briefly broke up a sit-in by Shiite rebels blocking the capital's airport road Sunday, only to have protesters return and keep the main highway closed after the first violence of a weekslong anti-government protest. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 5, 2011 file photo, anti-government protestors take shelter from the sun under their national flag during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen. Almost a quarter-century ago, a young American political scientist achieved global academic celebrity by proclaiming that the collapse of communism had ended the discussion on how to run societies, leaving "Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." In Egypt and around the Middle East, after a summer of violence and upheaval, the discussion, however, is still going strong. And almost three years into the Arab Spring revolts, profound uncertainties remain. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)
A Yemeni soldier, left, wears a placard with Arabic writing that reads,"together against the violence and terrorism," as he stands with others during a rally to mark the anniversary of a bomb attack at a parade square that killed Yemeni troops, in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An elderly Yemeni man puts a piece of tape on his mouth to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Yemeni man chains himself to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni men chain themselves to look handcuffed, to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni protesters hold banners with Arabic writing that reads, "No to militia, No to terrorism, No to violence," to protest against the Shiite insurgency during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Newly-appointed Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah speaks to reporters during a press conference in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. Yemen has sworn in a new government despite objections from the ruling party, led my former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and allied Shiite rebels who control the capital, threatening to perpetuate the standoff that has gripped the impoverished country in the past weeks. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is closing its embassy in Yemen amid political deadlock and deteriorating security conditions after the takeover of the country by Shiite rebels, two U.S. officials said.

The officials said that diplomats were being evacuated from the country on Tuesday and that the embassy in Sanaa would suspend operations until conditions improve. Yemen has been in crisis for months with Iran-linked Shiite Houthi rebels besieging the capital and then taking control. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closure publicly on the record.

Marines providing the security at the embassy will also likely leave, officials said, but American forces conducting counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate in other parts of the country would not be affected.

Spokesmen at the Pentagon and State Department had no immediate comment on the closure.

Although operations against al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate will continue, the closure of the embassy will be seen as a blow to the Obama administration, which has held up its partnership with ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government as a model for his strategy in combatting terrorism, particularly in unstable countries.

"Yemen has never been a perfect democracy or an island of stability," President Barack Obama said late last month as conditions in the capital of Sanaa became worse. "What I've said is, is that our efforts to go after terrorist networks inside of Yemen without an occupying U.S. army, but rather by partnering and intelligence-sharing with that local government, is the approach that we're going to need to take."

The embassy closure will also complicate the CIA's operations in Yemen, U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge. Although CIA officers could continue to work out of U.S. military installations, many intelligence operations are run from embassies, and the CIA lost visibility on Syria when that embassy was evacuated in 2012. The CIA's main role in Yemen is to gather intelligence about members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and occasionally kill them with drone strikes. Both the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command run separate drone killing programs in Yemen, though the CIA has conducted the majority of the strikes, U.S. officials have said.

There were 23 U.S. drone strikes reported in Yemen last year, 26 in 2013 and 41 in 2012, according to Long War Journal, a website that tracks them through media reports.

The Houthis last week dissolved parliament and formally took over after months of clashes. They then placed President Hadi and his Cabinet ministers under house arrest. Hadi and the ministers later resigned in protest.

Earlier Tuesday, Yemeni military officials said the Houthis, aided by troops loyal to Hadi's predecessor, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, took full control of the key central province of Bayda province.

Bayda is the gateway to the country's south, which remains in the hands of pro-independence southerners and to the strategic oil-rich Maarib province, to the east, also still not in rebel hands.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen is the third in an Arab country that has closed since the turmoil of the Arab spring began in December 2010. The other two were embassies in Damascus, Syria and Tripoli, Libya. The embassy in Damascus was closed in Feb 2012 and the embassy in Tripoli was closed in July 2014.

The embassy in Yemen was operating with only a small portion of its usual diplomatic staff and had closed to the public for all but emergency services in January. It had been operating with reduced manpower since September 2014, when the State Department ordered all non-essential personnel to leave the country.

In May, 2014 the embassy in Sanaa was closed for several for several weeks due to heightened security threats.



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